Well-known youth soccer coach continues writing bilingual books

By on April 13, 2011

Akronâ??s Rebecca Thatcher Murcia displays her newest published books. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

From Massachusetts to Mexico and Columbia to Pennsylvania, Akron author Rebecca Thatcher Murcia has experienced a variety of cultures. In the past decade, she’s used her interest in Latin America, soccer and famous individuals from history to become a regularly published author, including two recent titles, Que Se Siente al Ser Shakira, and Que Se Siente al Ser Marta (What It s Like to be Shakira and What It s Like to be Marta, respectively). The two books in Spanish are part of a series by Mitchell Lane Publishers, a group that produces books mainly for students, populating school libraries. I ve always utilized bilingual books for my kids; I raised them bilingual, said Murcia, also a well-known local youth soccer coach. She used to find mistakes in the Spanish books she read to her children, and wanted to help contribute to better reading material for them. The books on Shakira and Marta, a famous female soccer player, were professionally translated via the publishing company, based on the text Murcia wrote in English. I speak fluent Spanish, and can read and write it as well, but literary writing is different and needs to be very polished, Murcia said. She was glad to work with a translator to assure all of the details were correct. Murcia s career didn’t begin with writing books for a children’s audience; she first spent several years as a journalist. Beginning in Springville, Massachusetts, she then moved to Brownsville, Texas, which is further south than about a third of Mexico. The job in Brownsville required that I know Spanish, Murcia said. Though I excelled at Spanish courses in college, I was nowhere near fluent. When they asked if I could speak Spanish, I said yes, and got the job.

She quickly became fluent in both the language and surrounding culture. She met her late husband, Saúl, while working there. They spent weekends heading into Mexico City, and Murcia s love for the Latin American culture was cemented. Murcia continued in journalism for a few years, until her two children, Gabriel (known as Gabo) and Mario were two and four. The family moved to Pennsylvania for Saúl s job with the Mennonite Central Committee shortly thereafter. A friend connected me with Mitchell Lane as an outlet to continue writing while raising my family, Murcia said. Her first book was about Dolores Huerta, the wife of Cesar Chavez, who remains an active voice for minorities and played a strong role in her husband s organization’s efforts for underpaid farm workers in California. The publishing company liked Murcia s work, and has since contacted her to write about topics related to Latin America, pop stars and soccer. In fact, six of Murcia s published books out of 13 total, are about soccer stars. The topics the company selects are geared to speak to today s youth; hence the Shakira publication by Murcia. It s funny to say, but I am the Shakira expert, Murcia said. She did so much research on the artist that she has now published two books on Shakira, by the same publishing company, one of which sold out of 20,000 copies. One of Murcia s favorite books to write was We Visit Columbia, based on the year Murcia and her two sons spent living in her husband s hometown after his death in 2005. Murcia writes about two books each year, and hopes to write more that are translated into Spanish in the future. More THATCHER, page A18

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